Research on contemporary puppetry is being undertaken at the Department of Theatre Studies at the University of Bern within a joint research project as well as in an individual project.
PhD project Stage Adaptations of "Über das Marionettentheater"
Despite the plethora of scholarly interpretations of Heinrich von Kleist’s essay Über das Marionettentheater (1810), adaptations of this canonical text onto the contemporary stage have received scant attention – an astonishing desideratum considering the prominent references made to both stage genres in the text itself. While the academic discourse on the text proliferates, the theatrical practices inspired by it remain fringe phenomena in both literary and theatre studies. The reasons for this neglect are readily apparent. Since the text is not generically classified as a drama, it does not signal its adaptability, hence its adaptations go unnoticed. More importantly, however, the bias that puppetry is a form of child entertainment without deeper cultural significance is still operative in the field of theatre studies, resulting in its exclusion as a valid object of enquiry. As part of the SNSF-funded project Visible Manipulation in Drama, Dance, and Music Theatre. Cross-Disciplinary Responses to a Puppetry Aesthetic, this study addresses said desideratum from a dance scholarly perspective, thereby challenging prevalent assumptions about puppetry as an art form and redressing its resultant marginalisation in theatre studies. The aims of this study are twofold: To provide a discourse-analytical archaeology of the historically contingent concepts of dance regulating the diverse interpretations and appropriations of Kleist’s text in scholarly discourse. And to offer semiotic analyses of select stage adaptations of Über das Marionettentheater, focussing on the ways in which they aesthetically reframe the text and thereby reinvogorate the discourse.
PhD project Beside Oneself. Configurations of Players and Puppets in Contemporary Puppetry
The description and analysis of the stage relationship between puppeteers and their objects is of vital importance for a deeper understanding of visible manipulation, the predominant technique in contemporary puppetry. Drawing on theories of acting and methods of theatre analysis, this doctoral thesis will investigate how, in contradistinction to conventional acting as a corporeal practice predicated on the human body alone, puppetry produces fictional characters in the interplay between puppeteer and object. This interplay necessarily entails the de-prioritization of the human body as the pre-eminent signifier of the theatrical sign system, as the doctoral thesis will demonstrate with reference to select theatrical productions from 2000 to 2017.
Publication project: A History of the Theorization of Puppetry
The publication, which addresses experts and students alike, will anthologize canonical as well as little known theoretical texts on puppetry, translate them into German where applicable, and provide critical commentary on them. A comprehensive introduction will offer a historical account of the scholarly theorization of puppetry.
PhD project Imagined Bodies in Contemporary Music Theatre
The dissertation project discusses processes of perception involved when audiences experience the interplay between live singers and visibly manipulated puppets in opera. This cross-over aesthetic is stimulating precisely because this interplay undergoes constant change through delayed action, shifts in narrative, and spatial fragmentation. It also presents a challenge for theatre scholars since conventional methods of theatre analysis are no longer sufficient to adequately assess such genre combinations. Drawing on the neuroscientific concepts of episodic memory and episodic future memory, this PhD project develops a new method of theatre analysis. The dissertation project is concerned with understanding how the episodic perception of polyphony, surreality and animation in music theatre works.